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'Book Of Lies' Examines Superman's Story

Sep 3, 2008 (All Things Considered)

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Brad Meltzer jokes that his new novel, The Book of Lies, is a "vain attempt to gain hair and youth." The book, which threads together the biblical story of Cain and Abel with the actual details of Superman creator Jerry Siegel's life — explores, among other things, the origin of the iconic comic book character.

"I loved Superman," says Meltzer. "Anyone who loves these characters loves them since they were a child ... That's where you first see good beat evil."

Meltzer's inspiration for the novel came at a book signing two years ago, when a woman in the audience declared that she knew more about Superman than he would ever know.

The woman turned out to be Jerry Siegel's niece, and she introduced Meltzer to the rest of the family, who told him about the mysterious death of Mitchell Siegel, Jerry's father. The elder Siegel was a haberdasher who died in a robbery in 1932 — either as a result of a gunshot wound or a heart attack. (The family was split in their understanding of the death.)

"Nobody knows the story, because in 50 years of interviews, when they ask Jerry Siegel where did you get the idea for Superman, he never tells anybody that his father died in a robbery," says Meltzer. "And that's why the world got Superman — not because America is the greatest country on earth — but because a little boy lost his father."

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